The changing economic landscape of the GGH

The economy of the Greater Golden Horseshoe has experienced dramatic change in recent years. Employment in manufacturing has declined, while new kinds of industries, such as digital media and app development, have emerged. Growing knowledge-intensive activities have concentrated in just a few locations in the region, mainly Downtown Toronto and a few suburban knowledge-intensive districts, and this tendency to concentrate appears to be increasing. Warehousing and logistics have also seen explosive growth in the form of new large distribution centres at the urban edge. With potential disruptive change from rapidly diffusing automation in the workplace, and the possibility of disruptions to trade, the future is more uncertain.

Under these circumstances, how can we successfully plan land uses in the GGH over the next 25 years? What kinds of economic activities should we be planning for? What kinds of urban environments do we need to best support these activities, and in what locations?

These are the central questions that this paper addresses. In this chapter, we draw on existing research to identify some of the key drivers of change that explain the evolving economic landscape of the GGH. The goal is to help planners and other policy analysts understand and monitor change in their cities and towns when developing plans or framing planning policy.

To answer these questions, first we need to understand how and why the economy of the GGH is restructuring. Which types of activities are growing quickly, which are growing slowly, and which are shrinking? What are the key drivers behind this restructuring?

Second, how are the locational requirements of these activities changing, and what qualities and characteristics do growing firms seek in an urban environment?